Toledo Rockets vs. Utah State Aggies Point Spread – Pick Against the Spread

Toledo Rockets (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. No. 18 Utah State Aggies (10-2 SU, 10-1-1 ATS)
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Date/Time: Saturday, December 15th, 2012, 4:30 p.m. EST
Where: Broncos Stadium, Boise, Idaho
TV: ESPN/DirecTV 206
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: Tol +10/USU -10
Over/Under Total: 58

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One of the best teams and best stories of the 2012 college football season
will finally get the stage they deserve when the 18th-ranked Utah
State Aggies
play the Toledo Rockets in the Famous Idaho Potato
Bowl on the Smurf-blue carpet of Broncos Stadium in Boise this Saturday
afternoon on ESPN.

Lost in all of the BCS drama and the post-season coaching musical chairs is the job Utah State coach Mark Anderson has done with his 10-2 Aggies this season. Not only did the Aggies finish with their first-ever 10-win season in school history, but their two losses were by a combined five points to Rose Bowl-bound Wisconsin and Poinsettia Bowl-bound BYU. In fact, if not for a missed 37-yard field goal by kicker Josh Thompson as time expired the Aggies would have upset Wisconsin in Madison (lost 16-14), so the folks in Logan have a lot to be proud of with the job Anderson has done with his senior-dominated team at Utah State.

They’ll face a Toledo Rockets team that also features a strong senior class that had bigger expectations for this season than the Idaho Potato Bowl, but losing two of their final three games down the stretch cost them a shot at a Mid-American Conference (MAC) title. The Rockets lost a heartbreaker at home to Ball State in early November in a classic look-ahead spot (34-27), then failed to knock off future MAC Champion Northern Illinois on the road the following week, allowing the Huskies to crash the BCS party instead of the Rockets.

As one of the first bowl games of the post-season, the representatives of the Idaho Potato Bowl have to be ecstatic about the Rockets-Aggies matchup that fell into their laps, even if the marquee saying Toledo vs. Utah State doesn’t garner as much national attention as some of the bowl later in December. True college football fans will definitely want to tune into this game, and true degenerate gamblers will want to pay close attention since Utah State was THEE BEST wager on the board all season long in college football (10-1-1 ATS).

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Knowing that everyone and their brother is going to finally have to look at the numbers put up by Utah State this season, and see that they nearly went perfect against the spread, oddsmakers set the opening line for the Spud Bowl with the Aggies as rather large 10-point favorites in Boise. Either the number is spot-on, or there hasn’t been enough interest at the betting window yet, but either way the point spread has yet to move in either direction after a full week of the number being up on the board.

The over/under total opened at 57.5 and has moved up the hook to 58 at a majority of sportsbooks offshore and around Las Vegas, with a few up the full point to 58.5 in order to take the push out of play as a final result.

This game will feature two pretty high-powered offenses, both designed around exciting duel-threat quarterbacks in Toledo’s Terrance Owens and Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton. But both offenses are not just about the QBs though, since both also sport 1,000-yard running backs as well as most option-read attacks often do.

Owens has struggled at times when throwing the ball (only 63%, 14-to-8 TD-to-INT), which is why Toledo has trouble when they fall behind by big numbers early. But the Rockets are at their best when Owens hands the ball off to senior RB David Fluellen (1,456 yards, 13 TD) and mixes in enough play-action passing to keep defenses honest. When Owens throws it his main target is the speedy Bernard Reedy (1,051, 6), one of the most dangerous return men in the country as well. The Rockets offensive formula has certainly worked in the MAC this year, as they rack up 456 yards a game (28th in FBS) and 32.9 points per game in the process (39th).

Keeton has much stronger numbers both running (539 yards, 7 TD) and passing (67%, 3,142 yards, 27-9 TD-to-INT) when compared to Owens, and he also has a big back to hand it to in senior Kerwynn Williams (1,277 yards, 17 TD) when defenses start keying in on him alone. But perhaps the biggest differences between these two attacks is that the Aggies have a plethora of receivers for Keeton to choose from when he throws, with seniors Matt Austin (15.5 ypc, 5 TD), Chuck Jacobs (15.3 ypc, 5 TD) and tight end Kellen Bartlett (5 TD) all getting the ball at various times in the passing game. In fact, the Aggies have 10 different receivers who have caught a touchdown pass this year, so Keeton does not lock on to one weapon and obviously takes what the defense presents him.

Another HUGE difference in these two teams is defense as in the Rockets hardly play any of it (there are in the MAC after all, allow 463 ypg - 107th) whereas the Aggies have one of the country’s best units both in yards allowed (323 ypg - 15th) and scoring defense (15.4 ppg - 8th). When Utah State has stepped out of the weak WAC conference their defense has held up just fine (held Wisc. To 156 yards rushing; held BYU to 145), while Toledo allowed massive yards in non-MAC games (allowed 624 yards to Arizona; allowed 526 yards and 31 points to 4-8 Wyoming!!!), something you must consider when handicapping this bowl game.

This will be Utah State’s second consecutive trip to the Idaho Potato Bowl, so they have experience playing on the Blue carpet of Broncos Stadium, even though they lost to Ohio in the game, 24-23. Toledo also played in Broncos Stadium last year, losing a lopsided 40-15, game to Boise State in non-conference play, so their experience on the Smurf-turf was a little worse than the Aggies.

Historically, Toledo has struggled against the WAC going 1-4 ATS against teams from the conference and a meager 1-3-1 ATS in their last five neutral site games. Utah State was like an ATM all season, and their 16-5-1 ATS record in their last 22 non-conference games would lead you to believe that this year’s record was not a fluke.

Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m predicting a 17+ point win here for Utah St. Good luck!

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